Artist Profile: Leon Bridges
Have you every heard an artist’s voice and immediately felt a connection? Something about them, be it the gritty angst seeping through their vocal chords or their carefully chosen words, just resonates. If we are self-professed music lovers than this has no doubt happened a few times. Such was the case when I first heard Leon Bridges.
I was introduced to Leon by a girl I had met through a friend. We hit it off and started getting to know each other by sending songs back and forth. It’s actually a great way to get to know someone. For someone who’s life is so entrenched in music it is important to find some common ground early on. She hit the nail on the head with his track ‘Coming Home’, a 60’s inspired ballad dripping with emotion. Ballads really are not my style, but there is no denying a good thing. Had that bad boy on repeat for two days straight. Her and I never made it past the first date, but I’ve got to thank her for putting me on to this cat, although I’m sure it would’ve only been a matter of time before he hit my radar.
It was early in his career, so I was immediately bummed to find he only had two songs available. Part of the reason I binged on that track so hard, initially. It was a breath of fresh air amongst my usual diet of club bangers, house jams and pop hits required for the daily and nightly hustle. That lead me to the more uptempo ‘Better Man’ and we were off to the races. Starting by pleading I don’t want much / except to be better man / for my lady. Leon tries to win back his lover by getting on his knees and pledging to “swim the Mississippi river” to get back in her heart. It’s a sweet little gut punch of a song whose only drawback is the fact it is only two minutes and twenty-one seconds, long.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1989, Leon Bridges spent his early years being a rad little dude. Ok, I don’t know this to be a fact, but I bet it’s true. At some point Todd “Leon” Bridges and his family made the trek from Georgia to Fort Worth, Texas.
Music wasn’t something that he grasped onto really early in life. Something about his story that I love and can relate to. While attending community college with his eye on a career in dance, he stumbled upon his gifts. A keyboard player with a passion for music became a good friend and they spent time between classes working on music. Bridges quickly bought himself a guitar and began crafting some songs. A short time later at a Fort Worth bar, Leon met Austin Jenkins of the veteran band White Denim. A week later they were in the studio turning the songs he wrote on his guitar into full arrangements. Not long after that Leon went from washing dishes to being label mates with Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen on Columbia Records. His album was nominated for ‘Best R&B Album’ at the 58th Grammy Awards.
Seeing Bridges live you get a sense of his roots in dance, moving to the music with a subtle, fluid, rhythmic quality. His music oozes retro soul, which is part of its allure, but as his latest project reflects, isn’t afraid to evolve. His lead single ‘Bad Bad News’ is an uptown Saturday night disco soul love affair, equally matched in its vibe and tempo by ‘You Don’t Know’.
Of course, his brand new album ‘Good Thing’ has its share of aching ballads, Leon’s bread-and-butter, like the fantastic ‘Beyond’. For me, it’s his mid tempo, classic 90’s hip hop and R&B feel of ‘Shy’ that stands out.
I just want to see you
You can come over
I know you’re shy
You can be shy with me
I know I need you
And I’m not quite sober
I know you’re shy
You can be shy with me
This is a fantastic follow-up to ‘Coming Home’ and clears Bridges from any talk of a sophomore jinx. A great album front-to-back, I would not be surprised in the least if we begin hearing his name a lot more come awards season.
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